The Next President of Harvard University

The Crimson Editorial Board weighs in on what we hope for in the next leader of Harvard.

The announcement that University President Drew G. Faust will step down at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year has kicked off a months-long presidential search. The Crimson Editorial Board weighs in on what we hope for in the next leader of Harvard.

“The presidential search committee should look for a leader unafraid to risk Harvard’s pristine, politically correct persona to regain the ethical standards and intellectual rigor that first gave Harvard a name worth caring about. It will undoubtedly be tempting for the Committee to select a statement candidate whose appointment—by virtue of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, background, or ideology—will reiterate Harvard as the world’s diverse, inclusive, and progressive bastion of higher education despite this year’s barrage of PR-wrecking whirlwinds. But for Harvard’s long-term advancement, the Committee should consider a candidate’s character, integrity, and commitment to students and staff over his or her media know-how or PR bonus. Harvard the institution, not Harvard the name, should take priority.”
— Lauren Spohn ’20

“The presidential search committee must prioritize someone as politically engaged as Faust was during these difficult times. The next president will also have to deal with the Trump administration’s likely curtailing of research funding and policies against minorities. While I would personally love to see someone in a STEM-related field serve as president (Faust is a historian, and Summers is an economist), I think someone with a background in the social sciences would be better equipped to navigate the greater political role Harvard is posed to play during the fallout from Trump’s policies.”
—Allison P. Yan ’19

“Being the president of Harvard is certainly one of, if not the most, powerful positions in education, and so President Faust’s successor should be ready to tackle the challenges that will shape its future. There are three key areas which will be important to focus on: 1) integrating engineering into the liberal arts, 2) making a world-class education accessible to everyone, and 3) ensuring the government continues to support higher education and research. This means the next president should have an appreciation for engineering, especially how it works with other disciplines; a knowledge of how platforms like online classrooms are evolving; an understanding of how to continue raising money to continue funding financial aid; and a willingness to speak with those in Washington to make sure our voices are heard.”
—Akhil S. Waghmare ’20

“Over the 10 years of President Faust’s tenure, this country has become hyper-aware of race, so it’d be devastatingly disappointing if the search committee did not make a concerted effort to make their shortlist racially diverse. University presidents nationwide are almost exclusively white, so it’s critical that Harvard take extra steps to ensure their candidates reflect the student body they seek to serve. Our country elected a non-white president before Harvard has. That fact can’t be skimmed over in this year’s search.”
—Ruben E. Reyes Jr. ’19

“Coupled with the prioritization of research and research funding is the need for the next president to address the negative public perception of scholars as elitists and—especially scientists—disseminators of falsehoods driven by special interests. All these attitudes undermine the integrity of universities and the perceived value of a liberal arts education. It is Harvard’s responsibility to protect the institutions it represents—the liberal arts, research, scholarship, and the professions—and to ensure that they continue to be regarded as essential to society.”
—Siavash Zamirpour ’20

“The outgoing administration was, and still is, attempting to tackle problems of inclusiveness and culture, with specific approaches to altering the social scene. It seems to me that they are really trying to get at something much bigger—the fundamental flaw with Harvard College. Generally speaking, people are not that happy here. People are jaded. I’m not doing justice to this problem here, in the nature of the issue or at a potential solution, because I have neither the knowledge or the vision to do so. However, I am hoping that our next president will have both.”
—Jack Lane ’19

“For better or worse, Faust’s departure coincides with an incredibly turbulent time for Harvard as a community and as an institution. Questions of inclusion and freedom are becoming increasingly pressing with debates over free speech and the unrecognized single-gender social organization sanctions. Harvard’s socio-political standing is also in jeopardy as partisan attacks and anti-elitism attitudes erode the public trust in academic institutions. Solving the aforementioned problems—and more importantly, determining how they’re solved—will have a profound effect on what Harvard is and how much will the university, national, and global community will trust it. As cliche as it sounds, the next few years will be defining, and the presidential search committee must ensure that the University is universally seen as a beacon of truth and knowledge.”
—Hansy D. Piou ’18